Haslar Heritage Group

Operation Magic Carpet

Mercy Mission

British Pacific Fleet Operation Magic Carpet

During World War 2 Members of the Royal Naval Sick Berth Attendants (SBA’s), Queen Alexandra’s Royal Naval Nursing Service (QARNNS) and Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD’s) undertook many active and caring roles in the time of war and conflict with many making the ultimate sacrifice. One such Operations was ‘Operation Magic Carpet’ with medical staff being drawn both from RNH Haslar and RNH Herne Bay.

RN Hospital Herne Bay was situated at Sydney New South Wales Australia. The hospital was originally built by the US forces in 1943 and vacated when the US advanced on the Philippines in October 1944. The hospital was then taken over by the Royal Navy to treat wounded members of the British Pacific Fleet with some 9000 patients treated prior to withdrawal.
HMS Glory (R62) was a Colossus-class aircraft carrier of the Royal Navy and laid down on Friday 28th August 1942 by Musgrave Shipyard, Harland and Wolff, Belfast.
Glory was launched a year later on 27 November 1943 by Lady Cynthia Brookes, wife of the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland. The ship was commissioned on Wednesday 21st February 1945, and sailed for the Pacific with an air wing of Barracudas (837 Naval Air Squadron) and Corsairs (1831 Naval Air Squadron).
At Sydney Australia, she joined the 11th Aircraft Carrier Squadron of the British Pacific Fleet as the war was ending. Glory then sailed to Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) on 6th September 1945 to accept the surrender of the Japanese garrison there.
Following the surrender at Rabaul, Glory then sailed for Australia to be fitted out to play a part in the British equivalent of Operation ‘Magic Carpet’. On completion of Magic Carpet Glory returned to the United Kingdom in 1947 and placed in reserve. In November 1949, the Glory was taken out of reserve and fully returned to service just over a year later in December 1950. Glory served in the fleet until being placed on reserve in 1956 and finally withdrawn and towed to Inverkeithing and scrapped on 23rd August 1961.
HMS Glory (R62)
Laid Down Musgrave Shipyard Friday 28th August 1942
Scrapped Inverkeithing August 1961
‘Operation Magic Carpet’ The Pacific Repatriation of US, Canadian, British and Commonwealth  POW’s.
With the surrender of Japan, both the US and Royal Navy began bringing home sailors and Marines. Vice Admiral Forrest Sherman’s Task Force 11 departed Tokyo Bay early in September 1945 with the battleships New Mexico (BB-40), Idaho (BB-42), Mississippi (BB-41), and North Carolina (BB-55), and two carriers plus a squadron of destroyers filled with homeward-bound servicemen. Stopping at Okinawa, they embarked thousands more Tenth United States Army troops.
The US and Royal Navy hastily converted many of its warships into temporary transports, including aircraft carriers, where three-to five-tiered bunks were installed on the hangar decks to provide accommodation for several thousand men in relative comfort. The US Navy fleet of 369 ships included 222 assault transports, 6 battleships, 18 cruisers, 57 aircraft carriers and 12 hospital ships.
By October 1945, ‘Magic Carpet’ was operating worldwide with the US and UK Army and Navy pooling their resources to expedite the troop-lift. December 1945 became the peak month with almost 700,000 returning home from the Pacific. With the final arrival of 29 troop transports carrying more than 200,000 soldiers and sailors from the China-Burma-India theatre.
Operation ‘Magic Carpet’ came to its end in April 1946, The last of the troops to return from the Pacific war zone (127,300) would arrive home in September 1946.
HMS Glory undertook three voyages as part of ‘Magic Carpet’along with many other ships including HMS Indefatigable. HMS Glory transfered in excess of a 1000 servicemen and civilians. The longest voyage being undertaken was from Manila to Vancouver Canada.
Little is remembered today of this incredible operation and it should go down in history as the greatest mass movement of humanity ever attempted, or even accomplished. Operation Magic Carpet was just one of many operations undertaken in WWII and is a tribute to the skills and teamwork of the thousands of seamen, sailors and especially naval medical staff who made the safe return of millions of servicemen and women from every corner of the world a reality.

Eric C Birbeck MVO

Haslar Heritage Group 2011

Scroll to Top